Octopussy (1983)

James Bond film #13 (Roger Moore Bond)

Octopussy (1983)

The Bond series becomes a baker’s dozen with 1983’s Octopussy (13), a movie which may very well win the “Worst Title Ever” award. The film itself isn’t so great either, excelling only in setting and severely lacking in story. A Soviet general who’s something like a mix between Dr. Strangelove and Buck Turgidson is attempting to expand the USSR’s borders into Europe through a convoluted disarmament plan. Somehow, an Afghan prince and his unfortunately named business associate get involved, and Bond ends up dressing like a clown. If it weren’t for the absurd name, this subpar Bond film would be long-forgotten by now.

 It’s never quite clear what’s going on in Octopussy (13). After the unsettling Soviet General Orlov is introduced, Bond starts following a trail set off by a Fabergé egg, leading him to Kamal Khan and the exquisite Miss Magda. She steals a phony egg after sleeping with Bond, then the plot (and the film) stops dead in its tracks as Bond goes under house arrest. His means of escape are confusing, with a weird safari team hunting him down among exotic animals, but when he finally gets away he eventually makes it to Octopussy, whose circus is being used by Khan to smuggle in relics. The film is really muddled as far as what Octopussy and Magda know and whose side they’re on, so by time a nuclear bomb winds up in the circus, you can’t really tell who’s trying to accomplish what. The unfocused writing ruins most of the film and takes away from its strongpoints.

One of its strongpoints is its setting, since Bond’s egg chase leads him to India, a great location for noisy action sequences. The crowded streets of Rajasthan make the tuk-tuk chase scene harrowing, and there’s a whole cultural buffet on display, from sword swallowers to beds of nails – both of which get used by Bond to kill off henchmen. 007 even gets an Indian sidekick, Vijay, who drives that tuk-tuk like a champion and cracks funnier jokes than James. Unfortunately, he gets brutally buzzsawed, but he’s fun while he lasts.

For whatever reason, the relative maturity of For Your Eyes Only (12) is completely absent for the follow-up. Bond does a lot of things that are simply unbecoming for a super suave secret agent, like hiding in a gorilla costume, dressing up like a clown, and giving a Tarzan yell while swinging through trees. And I’m not looking to complain about an army of circus ninja women, but when their operation involves using elephants and see-saws, it gets even sillier than it sounds – yet somehow, is able to stoop lower still, when Bond and Q float in to assist on a hot air balloon.

Octopussy (13) is a frustrating movie that has some decent individual parts but an awful story to link them all together. The final fight on top of Khan’s airplane is exhilarating and an impressive stunt to watch, but these movies have been churning out death-defying stunts for 20 years now. A Bond movie needs more than some good action scenes to stand out, and Octopussy (13) is lacking that extra substance.

Final rating: 5.5/10

–James A. Janisse

Stray Observations:

  • The opening segment was pretty classic, a good mix of action and humor with Bond flying his own personal jet out the back of a big truck. Plus, Cuba! Cuba’s cool. And communist. I guess Reagan-era Bonds are gonna be about the Cold War again.
  • It’s weird that Octopussy is played by Maud Adams, who previously played Andrea Anders in The Man with the Golden Gun (9). I guess the hair dye makes Bond think that he hasn’t slept with this woman just yet. You show ’em what’s up, Bond!
  • If she were written better, Magda would be one of my favorite Bond girls. I like how angular and powerful Kristina Wayborn is, and her graceful descent from Bond’s balcony was top notch.
  • We’re getting deeper into the ’80s now, and as my astute mechanic friend observed, the cars on the streets are getting much smaller. So it goes.
  • Wow, the most explicit nudity yet, with full-on ass being shown (though sorta far away) when Bond arrives at Octopussy’s island.
  • John Barry’s back in the composer seat, and the Bond theme is back in full effect because of it. It would have been cool to hear a more Indian-inspired rendition of it, but alas, Barry’s not great at the whole “variation” thing.
  • Speaking of the Bond theme, it enters the diegesis of the film when Vijay plays it as a signal to Bond. Not sure how I feel about that.
Bond Girl Fate

Octopussy

(Maud Adams)

Main Bond Girl:A wealthy… circus businesswoman, Octopussy also owns a floating fortress exclusively full of women. She finds out her partner is backstabbing her and helps defeat him with Bond. Then has sex with Bond.

Magda

(Kristina Wayborn)

Secondary Bond Girl: Octopussy’s assistant, but also Khan’s mistress? Or something. Beds Bond early on to steal an egg, eventually helps in the raid and last seen hugging on Q.

Bianca

(Tina Hudson)

Opening Segment Bond Girl:Helps Bond in Cuba, using her cleavage and legs to distract his captors. Last seen driving away safely after Bond tells her he’ll see her in Cuba. They probably banged.

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